It's well known in the sporting arena that the impacts of travel have a negative effect on performance. Despite numerous attempts to curb these effects, very few have been successful.

In this article we will investigate how different sports and teams approach combatting the impacts of travel. We’ll also look at how infrared wearable technology may be able to offset some of the negative effects of jet lag, fatigue and disturbed sleep patterns.


Time to read: 5 minutes

Intermediate

Key Points:

  • Jet Lag and performance – what we know so far

  • How teams are trying to control jet lag
  • Infrared Technology - a practical solution
  • Fluctuating protein needs
  • Combatting jet lag in athletes - conclusion

It's well known in the sporting arena that the impacts of travel have a negative effect on performance. In this article we will investigate how different sports and teams approach combatting the impacts of travel...



Jet Lag and performance – what we know so far

In elite sport, a world where the difference between success and failure can be tiny, every single possible advantage needs to be sought.

Athletes in many sports are now faced with the reality that their performance will be impacted based on their travel schedule. With elite competition taking place all over the globe, it’s an accepted reality for sportsmen and women that they will be expected to cover thousands of miles per year, crossing multiple time zones in the process.

There is no doubt that sporting performance is impacted by disturbed sleep. Extensive sleep and recovery research has been conducted because it is a known barrier to performance.

For example, research from 2016 analysed data from every single NFL game between 2000 and 2003. The researchers concluded that the chance of winning decreased by 3.5% for every 1000km (600 miles) travelled [1].

For teams travelling coast to coast, such as LA Raiders heading to the New York Jets, they’ve got to travel 5,110 miles which can seriously impact their chances of a successful outcome.

In association football, research shows that teams playing in European football competition will suffer more injuries. Interestingly the teams from England suffered the most injuries in matches, whilst injury frequency in training was the same as other teams.

When looking at the bigger picture, it could be logical to conclude that this could be down to increased travel distance, sleep disruption and flying requirements [2].

Similar patterns can be found across a wide range of sports.

How teams are trying to control jet lag

Almost none of the solutions being used currently are working, hence the reduction in on-the-road performance of athletes. Despite this, here’s a quick overview of what some teams are doing…

Some teams have tried to manipulate the sleep cycles of their athletes by using a combination of sleep-inducing compounds (melatonin) and then administering stimulants (caffeine) ahead of performance.

Simply put, this hasn’t worked for a lot of reasons, including sensitivity to the compounds and the difficulty in creating a phase shift [3].

Taking a scheduling approach, some teams are trying to adjust travel time and bedtimes for athletes based on where they are in the world. This includes pre, during and post flight routines and behaviours to abide by.

Aside from there being simply too many moving parts (unscheduled delays) for example, constantly shifting time zones, lack of access to facilities and varied flight lengths, it’s simply too large an operation to do at scale. By the time a sleep cycle has been adjusted, it must revert to the norm for a home game [4].

It’s also an issue because the sleep cycle must be adjusted and normalised in a very short period of time (2-3 days), which simply isn’t possible.

Another suggestion includes dietary changes. Some people claim that low carbohydrate diets can make a difference, but the evidence that these changes make a statistical difference is very thin on the ground and the scientific literature can’t support it as a reliable intervention [5].

Infrared Technology – a practical solution

We know that jet lag stems from interrupted sleep cycles and circadian rhythms. Fundamentally this is an issue with sleep quality and quantity. It’s a problem that is exasperated by flight, because research shows that airborne sleep quality is severely reduced. [6]

If we know that sleep is less efficient, it stands to reason that a quick way to reduce the impact of jet lag is to improve sleep efficiency.

When infrared technology is introduced to sleep there’s a statistically significant increase in sleep quality, with marked improvements in mood and reduced napping noted by participants in a sleep study [7]. These results are echoed in this piece of research, where there was an improvement in sleep quality when exposed to the infrared [8].

Here’s the practical argument for using infrared to combat the effects of sleep deprivation and jet lag…

Convenience

To experience the benefits of infrared, the athlete simply wears the KYMIRA® garment. It’s as passive a technology that you could wish to have.

Portability

Clothing is the ultimate in portability – it’s simply worn. It can also be packed away in kit bags for deployment when required.

Immediacy

The garment is working from the moment it is worn. For players leaving the field of play, their recovery can start from the second they wear the clothing.

Lack of side effects

There are no side effects to infrared technology. There’s no adverse reaction, no allergy, and no rejection by the body.

Clean sport initiative

There’s no chemical ingestion, no substances, and no administered molecule. As a medical department there’s no need to even consider the impact on drug testing which could be an issue with medications and topical creams.

Combatting jet lag in athletes - conclusion

Despite a lot of effort, nobody has found an effective solution to jet lag for athletes because we simply can’t easily override our internal clocks that easily.

A chemical solution hasn’t worked, a nutritional solution hasn’t worked and a logistical one hasn’t either. It’s time we turned to new technologies to help fix the issue.

Wearing infrared fabrics, like KYMIRA's® IR50 leggings is no effort and entails focussing all attention on making sure that the available sleep quality is the best it can be. The secondary benefits are that infrared is a technology that enhances other aspects of preparation and recovery at the same time.

You can buy the KYMIRA range and experience the benefits of infrared technology by clicking here.

October 11, 2021 — Steve Hoyles

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